Nobel Laureate Dr. Alan G. MacDiarmid Addresses Inaugural Meeting of Regional Bio-Processing Working Group

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Grass-roots organization seen making major strides in the advancement of farm-grown renewable energy, fuels and organic chemicals

At its first meeting on April 29, distinguished University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) professor and Nobel chemist Dr. Alan G. MacDiarmid addressed the Bio-Processing Working Group (BWG), a regional consortium of stakeholders in the future of energy, fuels and organic chemicals produced from agricultural sources. Meeting participants included individuals from a broad range of backgrounds: farming inputs; bio-fuels production and transportation; UTD Schools of Management and Social Sciences; and most importantly, oil seed crop farmers with significant land holdings throughout Texas, from Collin County to the Texas panhandle.

Recent economic and supply developments have made feasible the replacement of many petrochemical products with oils processed from environmentally friendly, renewable agriculture resources. According to Dan R. Foster, President of the Bio-Processing Working Group, “The agriculture and renewable energy industries are converging to form a new bio-energy and organic chemicals economy. The mission of the BWG is to advance the use of farm-produced crops as a significant source of renewable energy, fuels and organic chemicals to curb the nation’s dependence on oil.”

The group will hold regular meetings in the Dallas area for educational, joint problem solving and professional networking purposes.

The genesis of the BWG began nearly three years ago when one of Texas’ great scientists, the late Rick Smalley, 1996 chemistry Nobel laureate from Rice University, delivered a lecture in honor of Alan MacDiarmid's 75th birthday at UT Dallas. In his lecture, Dr. Smalley outlined some of the major problems challenging mankind, with energy being one of the top. According to MacDiarmid, that lecture stimulated his major interest in this problem facing mankind.

Over the past three years, MacDiarmid, who holds the James Von Ehr Chair in Science & Technology at UTD, has dedicated a significant amount of his professional research effort to energy-related areas, such as improved fuel cells and ethanol production.

Today, there is growing interest in the U.S. and around the world to develop renewable agricultural sources to help reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. President Bush noted in his 2006 State of the Union Address that "America is addicted to oil." He challenged the nation to address this problem and outlined steps the Federal government was taking to reduce Middle Eastern oil imports 75% by 2025. The Bio-Processing Working Group is Texas’ answer to meeting the call of the President.

In his closing remarks to the BWG, UTD Vice President for Research and Economic Development Dr. Da Hsuan Feng encouraged the group to move forward. “There is an old Chinese proverb: ‘Xing xing zhi hoa, ke ye liao yuan’ or ‘A spark of flame can burn the prairie.’ I hope this first meeting will be the spark that leads to major progress in solving the very important energy and fuels challenges facing the United States and the world!”

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Dan R. Foster
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